When I read about the early days of gaming (Hawk & Moor) hirelings - or maybe more accurately cannon-fodder were commonplace. When I played in the early 80s, almost every character had a henchman or two in the group I played with in the Poconos (summers and occasional weekends) and nearly no henchmen in my New York groups.
The primary difference was number of players in the group.
In the Poconos we had a group of four at best - a DM and three players. We tried using two PCs per player for a bit (and even the evil DM PC on occasion) but quickly decided one PC per player and a rotating stable of henchmen and followers was more satisfying. It gave each player a singular lead character and gave an easy solution to the question "what do I do with this + 1 sword now that I have something better?" You simply passed it down.
In New York, my group consisted of schoolmates. We could easily have six, eight or even twelve or more players at the table. Hirelings and henchmen weren't feasible to add to the number of characters already in play.
When the New York group stabilized at five to six players plus DM, we did see the occasional henchman or torchbearer, but they were the exception to the rule.
These days my players often grab a handful of men at arms at first level, but by the time they've reach second level, those red shirts are either dead or dismissed. Unless they gain a henchman through roleplay and the events in the adventure, henchmen are rare indeed these days.
Where do you stand on henchmen and hirelings these days? Does it depend on the size of your group?
Bx Wednesdays - I've been running a bx game on Wednesday afternoons on roll20. So far it's been quite a lot of fun! Originally I was going to run a few of the thunderrift ...
2 hours ago